The Queensland Government has taken a further step towards the development of a “northern food bowl” with moves to relax some land clearing restrictions in the State’s Gulf Country.
The Newman Government has proposed amendments to the Vegetation Management Act, introduced a decade ago by former Labor premier Peter Beattie, which it says will allow for northern agricultural enterprises to be developed for cropping and/or horticultural operations without the burden of unnecessary regulation.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the amendments would reduce red-tape for landowners across Queensland, boost food production and deliver jobs and strong economic benefits for the rural sector and regional communities.
“The amendments we are proposing in the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Bill 2013 will allow sustainable vegetation management activities to occur to support the development of high value agriculture in areas with appropriate land and climate characteristics,” Mr Seeney said in a statement to media.
“These proposals will bring us a step closer to meeting the Newman Government’s goal of doubling the value of Queensland food production by 2040.”
Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said the amendments, to be introduced into State Parliament today, would restore “much needed balance” to the State’s vegetation management framework, while retaining key environmental protections.
“The Newman Government is determined to close the chapter on 20 years of Labor over-regulation of vegetation management activities,” Mr Cripps said.
“Labor had allowed the pendulum to swing too far towards radical green policies that threatened the ability of landholders to effectively manage their businesses and maintain productivity.
“The introduction of self-assessable codes for routine vegetation management activities such as weed and pest management, fodder harvesting and thinning will save landholders time and money, while still requiring them to abide by a code stipulating sustainable land management practices.”
Mr Cripps said while the Bill proposes to remove regulations regarding regrowth control on freehold and indigenous land, these regulations will still apply to leasehold land and in reef watercourses.
“I stress that these reforms are not a signal that the Newman Government is relaxing environmental standards and do not give the green light for landholders to carry out indiscriminate land clearing,” he said.
“Inappropriate vegetation management practices that show no regard for the environment can still be readily detected through satellite monitoring.”
Key reforms proposed under the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Bill 2013 include:
- The introduction of new clearing purposes under the Act for high-value agriculture and environmental works (such as land rehabilitation);
- The removal of regrowth regulations on freehold and indigenous land, but the retention of controls on regrowth control on leasehold land and in reef watercourses;
New provisions to allow for the creation of self-assessable codes for routine management activities such as weed and pest management, fodder harvesting and thinning;
- The creation of simplified statewide vegetation maps to clearly define areas where regulations will apply;
The removal of the guide to sentencing under the existing Vegetation Management Act to ensure more consistent and equitable penalties in cases of inappropriate clearing;
Mr Cripps said the proposed reforms will now be referred to the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry parliamentary committee for thorough examination and full public consultation.